How to preserve flowers
You can easily preserve your favorite flowers, blossoms and leaves in more ways than one. An old art that has been practiced since the colonial era, flowers can be preserved for years, in a variety of ways. The methods for preserving flowers range from classic air-drying, pressing and glycerin, or using drying agents like sand, borax, cornmeal and silica gel. Flowers can also be dried in a microwave oven!
Preserved flowers can add a touch of beauty to your homes, and last for years, without a great deal of cost or effort.
AIR DRYING OR HANGING
The easiest and best way to preserve flowers, air drying involves removing the leaves from the flowers, tying the stems together, and hanging them upside down in a dry, dark, well-ventilated place to dry out for at least 15-20 days. Depending on the flower, they can be picked while they are still buds, or fully bloomed. Avoid keeping them in basements, porches and garages where there might be moisture content. Try keeping them in an attic, a closet or a pantry.
Flowers that are suitable for air drying include hydrangeas, baby’s breath, salvia, amaranth, and most of the ‘everlasting’ varieties of flowers.
Glycerin replaces the moisture in flowers of leaves, and leaves them supple, unlike other preservation processes. Use 2 parts lukewarm water to 1 part glycerin, and submerge the stems in the liquid for at least 2-3 weeks, or until the glycerin has permeated till the tips of the flowers or leaves. After soaking the leaves in the solution, hang them upside down so that the solution reaches the tips of the leaves or flowers.
Leaves of all kinds, Bells of Ireland are suitable for preserving in glycerin.
Pressing is done by using a flower or simple press, or the classic method of pressing the flower in a book. The press is then left to dry for a few weeks. The thus pressed flower does not retain its shape, but retains most of its color.
Silica Gel: Available in most florist shops, nurseries and garden centers, silica gel absorbs moisture rapidly, and preserves the color of flowers better. With a treatment of silica gel, most flowers dry out in 3 to 4 days. Use silica gel in airtight containers and coat the flowers in the gel.
Flowers that dry well in either borax or silica gel include: Rose, aster, carnation, marigold, dahlia, larkspur, geranium, zinnia, chrysanthemum and delphinium.
Sand drying: Sand should be clean, dry and salt free, and sieved to remove additional impurities. Sand can be baked in an oven to help it dry out. In a container, put a little sand, and bury the flower upright, gently streaming in sand to cover all the petals. Flowers preserved in sand are very fragile.
Homemade agents: Various agents commonly found in home or used as household agents can be used to preserve flowers as well. Equal quantities of powdered pumice and yellow cornmeal mixed with non-iodized salt, can be used in the place of sand.
This is a variant of the silica gel drying process, and flowers, if treated correctly, hold nearly identical color after the preserving process. The flower and silica gel are put in a container, and are micro waved, then left to cool for at least 4 hours. This helps the flowers retain their shape and form. Proceed with caution with this method, since it is a relatively new method.
Flowers suitable for microwave drying include brightly colored flowers like roses, violets, dahlias and zinnias.